In our last blog entry, we wrote about the specific problem of propeller strikes. In this entry, we will discuss the broader issue of safe boating and the need for boating safety education. We would never recommend someone get behind the wheel of a car without proper driver's education. Likewise, we would never recommend someone take the helm of a powered water vessel without proper boater's education. As a Panama City boating injury law, we see the aftermath of boating accidents and know how often operator error is to blame. This means we also understand that boating education can prevent injuries and save lives.
A piece in the News Herald is helping to get the word out about a state law rolling out boater's education requirements. Florida law requires that anyone born in or after 1988 take and pass a state-approved safety class before operating a motorized water-going vessel with 10 horsepower or more, including most personal watercraft.
Stan Kirkland, regional spokesperson for the state Fish & Wildlife Conservation commission ("FWC"), notes that the program will get people thinking about safety and that, with time, more and more boaters will have attended the safety course. Others in the industry note that the requirement may be age-based, but anyone who operates a boat should take a safety course. In addition to enhancing water safety, taking the course can result in a 10-30% drop in insurance costs.
Details on available courses can be found on the FWC website. Classes are held in classrooms and online. Participants receive a certificate of completion which they can mail to the FWC to receive their Boating Education ID Card. The card must be carried when operating a vessel. Non-residents must follow the education rules, but evidence of completing a similar course elsewhere is acceptable.
Evidence supports boating education. Nationwide – as detailed in a review of recreational boating statistics for 2010 compiled by the U.S. Coast Guard and other federal government officials – 4,604 boating accidents led to 672 deaths, left 3,153 injured, and caused about $35.5 million in property damage. Notably, a mere 9% of fatalities occurred on vessels where the operator had received formal instruction in boating safety. This drops to only 6% when the instruction included a course approved by the National Association of Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA).
The effectiveness of boating education is understandable when one considers the factors that contribute to boating accidents. According to the 2010 boating statistics referenced above, the top five primary factors that contribute to boating accidents are operator inattention, inadequate lookout, inexperienced boat operation, speeding, and alcohol use. Boating safety education can address all five, and it can also help prevent factors involved in many other accidents.
We are all accustomed to the requirement that people pass knowledge and competency tests in order to drive a motor vehicle on land. Many states also require some form of driver's education. These rules exist to protect the safety of the driver and the safety of all bystanders. Extending similar rules to boating simply makes sense. Given the variety of boats and boating situations, it makes sense to prefer an education requirement over a testing requirement.
We support boating education and we also support the victims of boating accidents in Florida's Panhandle. If someone else's negligence left you injured or caused the death of a close relative, please call to arrange a free consultation with our Panama City boating accident lawyer. Most injury cases are handled on a contingency fee so there is no charge unless you recover money damages.